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Tesla saboteur caused extensive damage and leaked highly sensitive data, claims Elon Musk

Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes that the company is the victim of deliberate sabotage perpetrated by an employee.

According to CNBC, the high profile executive sent an email to Tesla employees this weekend alleging that there was a saboteur in the company’s ranks who had changed code in an internal product, logged into systems without authorisation, and leaked “large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties.”

In his email to staff, Musk says that the company is attempting to determine if the alleged saboteur was acting alone or working in cahoots with outsiders.

I was dismayed to learn this weekend about a Tesla employee who had conducted quite extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations. This included making direct code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System under false usernames and exporting large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties.

The full extent of his actions are not yet clear, but what he has admitted to so far is pretty bad. His stated motivation is that he wanted a promotion that he did not receive. In light of these actions, not promoting him was definitely the right move.

However, there may be considerably more to this situation than meets the eye, so the investigation will continue in depth this week. We need to figure out if he was acting alone or with others at Tesla and if he was working with any outside organizations.

The nature of the data leaked, and details of which internal systems were accessed and tampered with were not made public. However, news of the “saboteur” email to Tesla staff comes hot on the heels of revelations of a “small fire” that halted the firm’s body production line on Sunday night.

In a separate email Musk called on staff to remain vigilant and adopt the maxim of former Intel chief Andy Grove:

Could just be a random event, but as Andy Grove said, “Only the paranoid survive.” Please be on the alert for anything that’s not in the best interests of our company.

Tesla recently announced it was slashing its workforce by at least nine per cent. It’s natural to speculate that if someone is sabotaging systems or leaking data that they might be a disaffected employee.

About the author

Graham CLULEY

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s, having been employed by companies such as Sophos, McAfee and Dr Solomon's. He has given talks about computer security for some of the world's largest companies, worked with law enforcement agencies on investigations into hacking groups, and regularly appears on TV and radio explaining computer security threats.

Graham Cluley was inducted into the InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame in 2011, and was given an honorary mention in the "10 Greatest Britons in IT History" for his contribution as a leading authority in internet security.

3 Comments

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  • The advent of universal connections to the world wide internet makes it certain that such abduction of secret and/or sensitive data will continue for the indefinite future. Why do people put such faith in a technology, the security of which is surely impossible to reliably audit and ensure? We put all our eggs in the flimsiest baskets. A civilisation threatening disaster is only a matter of time.

    • I have been in the software business for 40 years and I could not agree more The current software ethos (speed and glitz, quality is an afterthought) guarantees that there will sooner or later be an incident that brings the internet and everything attached to it to a halt. Get ready for some quiet time.

  • It's called Karma, Elon. Stop trying to do everything at once (while being a Scrooge-like employer) and FOCUS, FFS. Flamethrowers (glorified torches), The Boring Company, now a famous GF that comes complete with paparazzi. At this rate, you'll end up just being Tucker 2.0